Last Night: The Sword at Fitzgerald's

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The Sword, American Sharks, Gypsyhawk Fitzgerald's December 18, 2012

I'm glad that bands like The Sword still exist to lead impressionable metal kids down endless paths of boogie and stoner-rock. Since they started coming to Houston -- playing the now-shuttered Walter's on Washington, mostly -- I have seen a lot of the folks in Sword crowds start their own bands around town, jean vests slowly get covered in new patches, and beards, waistlines, and tattoos all grow.

Tuesday night, The Sword brought Gypsyhawk and prodigal sons the American Sharks back to Fitzgerald's upstairs for nearly four hours of metal. Houston is having quite the metal week, with a million-band show with Pallbearer at Fitz this Friday night, a black metal showcase on Saturday night at Walters, and Sanctus Bellum and their buddies at Rudyard's, also on Saturday.

No doubt everyone at Fitz last night will be at one or all of those.

I had never seen California's Gypsyhawk in the flesh, so I was glad to catch their opening set on Tuesday night. Think a hepped-up Thin Lizzy (bass out front) with funk glimmers. Very rolling, workmanlike, but not without flash. I tasted some Grand Funk Railroad in their stew too.

Sitting in the middle of the bill was the American Sharks, a project of lead singer Mike Hardin both before and while he was fronting dearly departed glam locals Roky Moon & BOLT, who splintered earlier this year. Party-metal of the highest order, the trio is actually based out of Austin, where Hardin moved this past year.

Hardin (handling bass) seems somehow more at ease and comfortable with the Sharks, and always has. He's bringing a new incarnation of the Roky Moon band back to Fitz in January. I still miss me some "Hot Saturday Night."

The band has been on The Sword's touring bill for a few months now, traversing the country, and even meeting Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich. They look to be staying on the road for the foreseeable future.

The Sharks were selling a two-track preview of their 2013 album, with the third track a taste of what they have been working on in the studio. I'm still stunned at the evil, magical things that guitarist Will Ellis does with his instrument.

The Sword's live show is still very much based around 2006's Age of Winters -- at least for the crowd, it seems, though their past three albums including this year's Apocryphon are worthy headbangers.

The opening set-list attack of "Apocryphon," "Freya" and "Hammer of Heaven" locked fans in for the night. I really dig the synth arrangements for "Apocryphon" too, and hope they include weirdo things like that for the next album. At least when they do it doesn't sound wanky, either. Organs and synths are underused in metal, probably because few can pull it off without sounding wussified or reaching.

The band gets lost with the crowd during most passages, becoming a sort of metal jam band, as the smoke settles down and eyes begin to close. It's taken close to a decade for The Sword to get to that point, and it's been fun watching them mature into something beyond indie-metal (someone else's made-up catch-all term).

Personal Bias: I used to drive to Austin from Houston to see American Sharks play this hipster hovel called Creekside near Sixth Street maybe once a month. Austin is their true home, but they got a hometown welcome last night.

The Crowd: THESE.

Overseen In the Crowd: LOTSA BEARDS.

Random Notebook Dump: I have always wondered what kind of band The Sword would have been in the '70s, when a thunderous quartet like them would be playing arenas and selling black-light posters, headlining bills with Rush, and scaring the mothers of America.

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